A dedication service early next month will pay tribute to five firefighters from the Iroquois Fire Department (Ontario, Canada) who died 25 years ago when their emergency van was struck by a train on the way to a fire. The 2 p.m. ceremony on Sunday, June 11 at Iroquois Point near the Seaway Lock will include the dedication of a section of a columbarium to be inscribed with the names of the fallen firefighters, John Mason, Randy Thompson, Joe Billings, Allen Holmes and Dennis Fisher.
A sixth firefighter, driver Phil Thompson, survived the accident and is now the chief of the Iroquois Fire Department.
The fatal accident occurred on March 19, 1981 when the firefighters were responding to a fire call just after 6 p.m. in then-Matilda Township.
After waiting for an eastbound train to pass on the double-track rail crossing on Brinston Road, the emergency van went around the barriers and was struck by a train approaching from the opposite direction that was blocked from view by the eastbound train.
The deaths devastated the close-knit community where most residents knew the firefighters.
More than 2,000 citizens and firefighters from across Ontario, Quebec and New York State attended two memorial services on March 22 and 23.
All five firefighters are buried in the United and Presbyterian cemeteries on Iroquois Point where the columbarium dedication will take place. A large tent with chairs will be set up on the site.
Leading citizens of the community, including Mayor Lyle VanAllen of the amalgamated municipality of South Dundas Township, will take part in the ceremony.
Master of ceremonies for the event is the Rev. Janet Evans of the Iroquois United Church.
Guest speakers and participants include the Rev. Teijs Theijsmeijer, former pastor of Knox Presbyterian Church, current pastor Rev. Geoffrey Howard, former Iroquois councillor John McAllister, Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh MP Guy Lauzon and Jeremy Gowsell, constituency assistant for MPP Jim Brownell.
Winchester piper John Yourt and Ottawa guitarist and vocalist Mike Fahey will provide musical selections.
The event is co-sponsored by the United and Presbyterian Churches, South Dundas Township and the Iroquois Fire Department.